Professor Don Fisher, head of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and director of the Human Performance Laboratory, was interviewed on Sunday by Laura Hutchinson of the WWLP-TV Channel 22 “In Focus” program about the new Massachusetts state law that bans texting while driving for everyone and phoning while driving for drivers under 18. “Texting while driving is dangerous for two reasons,” Dr. Fisher said during the interview. “It’s almost impossible to glance down at the Blackberry or whatever for less than two seconds. So you’re almost always having to take a dangerous glance. But, second, even when you’re looking up at the forward roadway, cognitively you’re loaded…much more than when you’re on a hands-free cell phone.” Watch the video: 22 News inFocus
Studies in the Human Performance Laboratory have determined that a glance away from the roadway of more than two second increases your chances of an accident from three to 23 times. The research there has also found that younger drivers are more prone to these longer, more-dangerous glances away from the road.
During 60 percent of the distraction tasks such as texting and cell phoning performed in the driving simulator, Dr. Fisher told Hutchinson, “the young drivers glanced away longer than two seconds. That’s dangerously long. In only 20 percent of the scenarios did the experienced drivers glance longer than two seconds. So the young drivers are putting themselves in danger roughly three times as often as the older drivers.”
Matt Romoser of the Human Performance Laboratory also participated in the Channel 22 program, which aired on Sunday at noon. He was off-camera except as the driver in the simulator but assisted Fisher in this effort. (July 2010)